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AAA Reports Costs to Own, Operate Vehicle Remain Constant

April 09, 2009

AAA's 2009 edition of "Your Driving Costs" shows the average cost of owning and operating a new car in the U.S. has remained relatively unchanged despite lower fuel costs. The average cost for a new sedan driven 15,000 miles per year is 54 cents per mile, only 0.1 cent less than reported in 2008. 

AAA estimates the cost to own and operate a typical new sedan driven 15,000 miles yearly is $8,095, only $26 less than last year's estimated cost of $8,121. Small sedan costs were unchanged at 42.1 cents per mile, or $6,312 annually. Medium sedan costs dropped 1.1 cents per mile to 54.0, or $8,105 per year, thanks to maintenance cost savings and lower depreciation. However the costs for large sedans rose 0.7 cents per mile to 65.8, or $9,870 yearly, due largely to increased depreciation. 

SUV owners, whose vehicles get lower fuel economy, benefitted most from the drop in fuel prices. Their estimated operating costs dipped 1.3 cents per mile to 68.4 cents, or $10,259 per year, despite a relatively large increase in depreciation and insurance premiums. Meanwhile, minivan costs jumped 1.2 cents per mile to 58.8 cents, or $8,815 yearly. The growth is due to cost increases in every area except fuel and included the largest rise in depreciation of any vehicle class. 

AAA's 2009 edition of "Your Driving Costs" uses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's revised fuel-economy estimates that are intended to better reflect "real world" results. 

AAA's calculations are based on both operating and ownership costs that include: 

  • Operating Costs: Fuel, Maintenance and Tires
  • Ownership Costs: Insurance, License, Registration, Taxes, Depreciation and Financing 

The costs are based on typical use of a vehicle for personal transportation over five years and 75,000 miles of ownership. Fuel costs were based on $2.30 per gallon, as reported by the AAA Fuel Gauge Report (AAAFuelGaugeReport.com) in late 2008. 

AAA's analysis covers vehicles equipped with standard and optional equipment. The driving costs in each category are based on the average expenses for five top-selling models selected by AAA. The models included in the study are: 

  • Small Sedans: Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla 
  • Medium Sedans: Chevrolet Impala, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry 
  • Large Sedans: Buick Lucerne, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon 
  • SUVs: Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner 
  • Minivans: Chevrolet Uplander, Dodge Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna 

A hard copy of the "Your Driving Costs" brochure is available upon request, and subject to availability, from local AAA clubs. The brochure also can be downloaded free of charge from the AAA Exchange at AAA.com/publicaffairs.

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